‘A Lonely War’ is Here!

We’re halfway through the summer here in the UK, even if it hasn’t felt much like summer at all. Maybe it’s a little bit more seasonal where you are, and you’re looking for something to read? Well then, this is the perfect post for you!

The third book in my steampunk/epic fantasy Flight of the Lady Firene series is now available! It’s called ‘A Lonely War’, and you can find the details below.

A Lonely War small coverHome should be where the heart is, but for Fleet Manteios it’s nothing but a place of obligations and bad memories. When she’s drawn back to Requies to attempt a reconciliation with her dying father, she finds it a changed city. Her estranged husband might still be there, but there’s a fresh sense of hope and freedom on the streets – and there’s trouble, too.

The last person Fleet expected to see has made her way to the city, and what’s followed her could put every life in danger. Fleet’s loyalties are about to be divided, between the family she abandoned, the friend who was once a foe, and the city she fled from – and which might not want to be saved.

I’m really proud of this book, both the themes that ended up running through it, and the choices Fleet makes during the story. It’s also the longest Lady Firene book to date, which wasn’t intentional, but sometimes you’ve just got to let the story go where it will.

Maybe you’d like to read it? Here are all the links:

Amazon

Nook

iTunes

Kobo (Coming as soon as I can! Kobo seems to be experiencing some publishing delays right now.)

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This Writing Life: Writing Without Purpose

I feel like a lot of the recent posts I’ve written, or haven’t yet written but plan to write, have a common theme: namely, that it’s important to know the rules of writing fiction, but also when to break them. Or, in some cases, to break them… but only temporarily.

Take this particular piece of advice: every scene in your story should have a purpose. As a reader, I can’t dispute this. Reading a meandering book, filled with descriptions or exposition that seem to do nothing but show you how skilled the writer thinks they are, is deeply frustrating. On the writing side, I think we should strive for purpose and meaning in every scene of a finished story, to improve pacing and tension, and to stop the reader getting bored. But no published story starts out as a fully formed, completed animal, and that’s where breaking the rules come in.

You see, I think there’s something to be said for not always knowing your scene’s purpose before you write it. Admittedly, not knowing for an entire novel would make writing it a very slow affair, but sometimes it can be a relief to throw caution to the winds and just write, to see where the characters take you. Not only might you surprise yourself with the twists the story takes, but there can be some truly serendipitous moments, throwing up new possibilities you’d never considered before.

If you consider yourself a pantser, i.e. you write by the seat of your pants, this is probably a feeling you get every day. I believe even staunch outliners can benefit from occasionally writing without purpose, though. It often feels to me as though some subconscious part of my brain keeps working on my stories when I’m not actively thinking about them (call it the Muse, if you will, although I don’t believe that’s something writers should rely on or even need to be able to write). When you write without any clear idea of where a scene is going, your subconscious starts throwing in the things it’s been mulling over – and quite frequently it has better ideas!

As I said before, I don’t like the idea of relying on the Muse, or writing every scene without a purpose in mind (and I think a lot of pantsers do more internal outlining than they realise), but there are times when you really don’t know what you’re going to write – and that’s okay. Simply putting your characters together and seeing what comes out might surprise you, and might even turn your whole story upside down, in the best way possible.

This Writing Life: How Not to Write a Novel

I love Pinterest. Perhaps it’s because I have a very visual brain, but I find endless inspiration in all the pretty pictures and beautiful artwork, sparking story ideas left, right and centre. In recent weeks, I’ve also found it to be a surprisingly useful repository of writing advice, sometimes in poster form, and sometimes in full articles hidden behind the pictures. There’s a problem with taking writing advice from the internet, though, particularly from a site that’s as open and lacking in curation as Pinterest. What one user finds enlightening is going to be completely useless for another… And that’s where this post comes in.

You see, whilst browsing Pinterest images today, I came across one titled ‘How to Write a Novel’. I clicked on it, wondering what fresh nugget of inspiration I might find – only to be left dismayed. According to this image, after all, ‘writing a novel’ could be easily summarised in a few bullet points, cheerily arranged on a brightly coloured poster; not only was it painfully simplistic, but some of it was just plain wrong.

It’s fair to say that everything about this poster rubbed me the wrong way. Some of the ‘advice’, after all, was truly useless, verging on terrible. Don’t use crutch words! (Sure, but that’s a tiny detail to be worrying about when you’re just starting a book, and you won’t know what your crutches are until you’ve written it, anyway.) Do make your dialogue sound natural! (Yeah, great, except that’s MUCH HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS.) Don’t edit the novel whilst writing it, or write without knowing the ending in advance! (If that’s how you write, yes – but plenty of writers don’t work that way, and are happy with their process regardless.)

Okay, if I’m honest, the real problem with this poster wasn’t the advice itself, or its terrible English (always encouraging, given the subject). The problem, really, is with the prescriptive nature of advice like this. Not only is it impossible to break the process of writing a novel into such simple steps (write several drafts, then proofread when you’re done is the last one – so casual, as if that might not take you anywhere from a month to a decade), but it’s also impossible to so clearly define that process in a single way. Every writer works differently, and by that I mean really, REALLY differently, sometimes even from one book to the next. A few bullet points on a poster isn’t going to change that.

But this advice is aimed at new writers, you might say. In actual fact, I think that’s worse. Implying there’s One True Way to write a novel is singularly unhelpful for anyone coming to writing for the first time. There are enough worries and insecurities in being a new writer without being told you’re Doing It Wrong. And I know this might sound hypocritical of me, being someone who frequently gives out writing advice on the internet, but here’s the one thing I always come back to: everything I suggest is subjective, and it won’t work for everyone. This is simply my experience, learned by trial and error, by making endless mistakes, and by listening to – but not always heeding – the words of people who’ve been doing this longer than I have.

If you are a new writer, worrying about how to tackle your first book, here’s my biggest piece of advice. In the words of a well-known sports brand, Just Do It. Start writing, make mistakes, and learn from them. Every piece of advice you’re ever given (including this one)? Consider whether it could work for you, but don’t treat it as gospel. Every writer needs to find their own path, be that the same as their idol’s or radically different to everything that’s come before. There’s no easy road map to becoming a writer, even to writing a single story, no matter what posters on Pinterest might try to tell you – and whilst that sounds kinda scary, it’s ultimately liberating. Go out there, do your own thing, and remember: there’s no-one who knows your writing process better than you.

The Part-Time Writer: Little and Often

I am, for those who don’t know, self-employed. With my partner, I run a B&B and smallholding, taking care of the house, the guests and the animals in equal measure. It’s an enjoyable job, but like all self-employment, it comes with a few negatives. Today, for example, I realised that I really haven’t had a day off in at least a week, and won’t get one for several more days. I imagine that the idea of a fortnight without a day off from their job would horrify an awful lot of people, but it’s something that I’ve not only got used to, but actually don’t mind. Quite a few of those days, after all, aren’t a straight eight hours of work; I might work until lunchtime, or 3pm, or simply do a few chores on a day that would otherwise be free time, simply so I don’t have to do them later. It turns out, you see, that I actually quite like having a job that allows me to take this ‘little and often’ approach, and it’s the very same thing I do with my writing.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to getting your writing done, and I’ve seen both part-time and full-time writers who fall on either side. Some are what you might call ‘binge writers’, who save up all their writing time and then hammer out 10,000 words in a day, only to not write again for two weeks. Depending on your work/life schedule, this might work well, allowing you to properly focus on your story for a defined period of time, and thus get far more work completed than you might otherwise have managed in those two weeks. Some people simply enjoy writing this way, whether it makes them more productive or not. For many writers, though, and particularly part-timers with a reasonably regular schedule, I don’t think this is the way to go – and thus we come to back ‘little and often’.

The most successful writers, it seems to me, make their writing a habit. There’s no waiting for inspiration to strike, no writing ‘when they’ve got time’ (because most make time, one way or another – more on that in a later post). Instead, these are the people who sit down each and every day, and get the work done.

This is a method I’ve gradually settled into over my years of writing, and it’s one I suggest most writers try to adopt, to a greater or lesser extent. Creating that habit, that discipline, tends to get work finished far better than the occasional, irregular binge. It’s no exaggeration to say that slow and steady wins the race – just 500 words written every day will produce 182,500 over the course of a year, which is somewhere in the region of two average-length novels, or an awful lot of short stories.

That ‘little and often’ method can also work on a daily basis. Instead of wondering when you’re going to find time to sit down and write 1000 words, aim for just 100, or 10 minutes, or whatever you can fit in. Maybe you’ll only manage 100 words/10 minutes that day – or maybe inspiration will strike, and you’ll suddenly produce a lot more. Maybe you’ll find you can actually fit an extra 10 minutes in here, and another 10 there, and suddenly you’re not so far off that 1000 words after all.

This, in my experience, is how stories get written – and, more importantly, finished. Little snippets of time, a few words here and there, and one day you look up to find you’ve produced a book. Not only that, but if you’re a part-timer, you’ve hopefully also found time to have a job, or raise a family, or pursue other hobbies and interests along the way. You find that you don’t have to let writing consume your life if you don’t want to, but that you can still produce stories more quickly and systematically than you’d ever believed possible.

I know, for some people, this is all going to feel a bit dry and boring. What about inspiration? What about the Muse? Well, I was a bit scathing about the Muse in my last post, so I won’t repeat that here; maybe you really do need that lightning strike to help you write, and that’s fine. On the other hand, maybe you’re looking at the chaos of your life and wondering how you’re ever going to find time to produce the story that’s burning inside your head. If that’s the case, there really is nothing for it but the ‘little and often’ approach: a few stolen minutes here and there, a few sentences written whilst you’re on the bus, or on your lunchbreak – or even on the toilet, if you really feel so inclined – just to see what you’re able to create. Try it, and see what happens.

This Writing Life: Should You Stick to One Series at Once?

I’ve titled this post with a question, and before I begin, I’m going to be completely honest: I’m not sure it’s a question I can answer. This, you see, is a topic I’m currently wrestling with, and all I can do is summarise my train of thought, with the pros and cons that have occurred to me. And really, there are both, whether you choose to write a single series from start to finish, or jump about between books.

A little background: I currently have one unfinished series, with two books published, a prequel available to my newsletter subscribers, and another novel on the way. It’s a series that’s very dear to my heart, and I intend to write at least a couple more books (and I have tentative ideas for more after that). The problem is, I’m something of a magpie brain when it comes to writing — whilst I’m usually able to get to the end of a first draft without being distracted, as soon as that’s done, I want to be off and working on the new shiny thing, which isn’t usually the next book in the series, at least not right away.

What’s the problem with that? From a writing perspective, there isn’t one. You might struggle to get back into a story’s world when you return to it, having written something else in between, but the same can be said of taking time off to edit, or having a writing break for another reason. I tend to find instead that jumping around between projects give me a fresh sense of enthusiasm when I return to one, as I’ve had time to develop exciting new ideas and view previous books in a more balanced light. No, the cons, in this case, come from the publishing side.

Conventional wisdom, you see, suggests that it’s easiest to gain an audience (whether you’re self- or traditionally published) by a) writing a series, and b) producing the books in that series at regular intervals. There are plenty of exceptions to that rule, of course — George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you — but it’s wisdom that holds true for the majority of writers. That means taking the time to write other books is suddenly off the agenda, particularly if you’re a slow writer, because it’s more important to continue the series you’re already in the middle of.

But oh, the lure of the new shiny story…! And so the circle goes. This is exactly why I don’t have any answers: because every time I come to start a new book, I go through this same dance. I want to write this new idea I’ve just come up with! Ah, but it’s about time I published a book in my current series — except it’s just not as exciting

Well, okay, it turns out I do have something of an answer, and it goes like this: do the work. For me, writing first drafts is easy. Editing is harder, and committing to a single series is harder still. Wherever you are in your writing career, though, sitting down and working every day (or at least on a regular schedule) is the most important thing. For new writers, that might mean hammering away until they finish their first book. For me, doing the work means making sure I keep up with at least one series — and if there’s time to write something else, that’s fine, but what I’ve started has to come first.

Sometimes, that just isn’t what you want to hear. It’s quite frequently not what I want to hear, which is exactly why I wrote this post. We all have to remind ourselves, from time to time, that commitments have to come before distractions; that whilst writing what you love is important, there’s a reason you started that series, or book, or short story in the first place, and that’s probably got more to do with love than the idea you only came up with two days ago. Whether we have waiting readers or not, we have to stay true to our own vision of what we’re creating — and if that’s a series, then we owe it to ourselves, as much as anyone, to do the work and finish what we’ve started.

Content Is Not My King

There’s a saying in the online world that, if you’ve spent much time around marketing blogs, you’ll probably have heard: content is king. It’s usually attributed to Bill Gates, some time in the mid-90s, but for the purposes of this post, its origin is irrelevant. Instead, I want to talk about the idea of ‘content’, and why I think it’s a pernicious one, particularly if you’re interested in a creative lifestyle rather than simply making money online.

The phrase ‘content is king’ is most frequently used in blogging terms i.e. you need plenty of quality content on your blog if you want it to succeed financially. That, in its most basic sense, I wouldn’t disagree with. However, in recent years, I’ve seen the word ‘content’ bandied around in a number of other spheres. Content is no longer just what you put on your blog: it’s your fiction, your music, your podcasts, your artwork, your photos of your cat. Again, at its most basic, all of this is ‘content’ – but lumping it all together creates a problem.

You see, not all media is created equal, or at least I don’t believe it should be. That novel you’ve spent a year slaving over isn’t equivalent to someone’s newest Tumblr post; a portrait done in oil paints by a skilled artist isn’t equal to that Vine you just filmed of your cat knocking things over.

These are exaggerations, of course, and things become more difficult to compare, let alone place a value on, as they either become more similar or when they’re in completely different media (how do you decide whether a masterful painting or a classic novel has more value, for example? The answer is always going to be subjective). This isn’t about deciding which is ‘better’, though, but rather about believing not everything is the same.

And that’s where my problem with content comes in. As creators, we’re constantly hearing this ‘content is king’ message, and being told that we’ll only be more successful if we keep producing more, more, more. Trying to follow this mantra, though, doesn’t take into account either the personal value we place on our art, nor the time that’s gone into it; the world would be a far poorer place if every piece of art, music and literature was suddenly replaced by low-grade ‘get rich quick’ blog-posts and tweets, in a misguided attempt to produce more ‘content’.

Maybe this sounds a bit snobby, but I don’t mean it to be – there’s undeniably a place in the world for business blogs and cat videos, after all. I’m also well aware that some of the media I consider an important part of my life would be considered trash by others, and vice versa. The important thing, really, is that whatever medium we create in, we take the time to think about what we place value on and why, and to make sure that the rush for ‘content’ never overwhelms our desire to make art, in whatever form that takes.

More is not necessarily better, quantity shouldn’t rule over quality, and sometimes you just have to focus on the passion that’s eating away at your heart, no matter how long that takes, or how much ‘content’ you could have created in the meantime.

The Part-Time Writer: Priorities

In my last few posts, I talked about why you might want to be a part-time writer, but today it’s time to get into the meat of really doing it: of committing to being a writer, whilst knowing you have a job to go to, kids to look after, voluntary work or hobbies or social events that need your attention. Because all those things are also important, right?

Of course they are. The trouble with a lot of writing guides I’ve read is that they espouse a rather simplistic message. If you want to be a writer, they say, you will WRITE. The harshest of these guides suggest that if you don’t write, then you never wanted to be a writer at all.

To a certain extent, this is something I agree with. Going for weeks, months or even years without writing anything, whilst continually talking about writing? That really doesn’t make you a writer. Sorry, but it’s true. However, suggesting you need to write every spare minute of every day if you’re going to make it as a writer isn’t true, either. Being a part-time writer is all about finding balance in your life, and the first thing you need to set are your priorities.

This, I admit, can sound a little woolly. When we start talking about priorities and motivation and inspiration, all things which make up a lot of any creative lifestyle, we risk descending into a fuzzy world where the work would get done, if only the Muse would co-operate (or maybe if only I didn’t need to rewatch an entire season of Farscape this weekend for the fifteenth time. I tend to find most descriptions of ‘the Muse’ a load of crap, because frankly, your words come out of your own head, and you don’t need to offer libations to some mysterious inner creature/external force of the universe in order to unlock them. But I digress.)

Fuzzy or not, though, every part-timer needs to work out their priorities. For me, this is a fairly simple process. There are things, after all, that just must be done. I have to work and thus earn a living. I have to eat and exercise. If you’ve got kids, you’ve got to feed and clothe them, too, or maybe you’ve got relatives to care for, or pets. Either way, these things will take up a certain amount of your time, and whilst you can try to delegate or maximise your efficiency all you want, that’s never going to completely go away.

Where priorities really become important, though, is in regard to the remainder of your time. You’re home from work. You’ve eaten. You’ve walked the dog. Now what?

It can be all too tempting at this juncture to turn on the TV, or reach for a book, or watch three hours of cat videos on YouTube before you fall into bed. Quite frankly, there are days when I can’t find the energy to do anything else. The rest of the time, though, when these temptations sneak in, I start asking myself questions. Which is more important to me: finishing this book or watching another episode of Location, Location, Location? (My love for home buying/renovation shows knows no bounds.) Am I going to kick myself if I don’t get this chapter finished this week? Are people really going to remember my extreme prowess at Minesweeper after I’m dead?

Okay, maybe that sounds a bit drastic, especially that last one (I’m terrible at Minesweeper), but there are times when you really have to remember what your priorities are. Maybe the most important thing to you right now is volunteering at a soup kitchen, or redecorating your living room, or raising alpacas, in which case you need to go out and do those things. Maybe, though, it’s writing that’s more important to you than anything else — which means, when the lure of the TV, book or video game is calling, you have to be strong. You have to write instead.

I realise this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. How do you choose between an obligation to a family member or your community, and your personal goals, for example? Explaining your priorities to those around you can also be hard, particularly if your loved ones just don’t see value in your writing. However, having some idea of your own priorities is absolutely valuable for part-timers in all fields, so that when distraction and weariness set in, you can think about what you most want out of life, and immediately know how to spend your time. And if one of those priorities is writing, and you put aside everything else to do it? That’s when you can call yourself a writer.

The Part-Time Writer: The All-Round Part-Timer

In my last post, I focused on a whole host of reasons why you might want to remain a part-time writer, and why immediately dropping the day-job the minute you start a novel probably isn’t the best of ideas. I realise, though, that might be something of an unpalatable thing to hear for a lot of budding writers. Everyone wants to believe that becoming a writer will solve all their problems, turn them into a superstar, or at the very least pay off their mortgage — anything approaching a reality check goes ignored. However, even if you’re chomping at the bit to ditch the day-job, I’ve got one last option for you: becoming an all-round part-timer.

Let me start with a story. When I left university, close to a decade ago now, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do. I had, quite frankly, a completely useless degree, and short of going into a life of academia, I couldn’t really see what I was going to do with my BA. Still, I had a degree — any kind of degree would help me get a job, right? Wrong. Not only was the world on the verge of a major recession and the jobs market in turmoil, at least in the UK, but I quickly realised a 9-5 office job wasn’t going to suit me. Instead, after a depressing few months of unemployment, I ended up with a Christmas job in a bookshop, before going on to work in a library.

This, then, is where the writing comes back in. The library I worked in was staffed almost entirely by part-timers — my first shifts were all late in the evening, and although I later switched to more mornings and afternoons, I was never working more than 30 hours a week. Whilst that wasn’t ideal in some respects, it did come with one major advantage: it gave me time to write.

And not just any time, either, but set hours every week, which I could easily schedule around my day-job. I don’t think I’ve ever been as productive as I was for those few years. Not only did I write a 120k word novel in 3 months, but I continued to blog, to write short stories, and to find time for reading, gaming and all my other hobbies. It was, put simply, rather brilliant.

It’s easy to see why I advocate this lifestyle to those who can manage it. There are obvious drawbacks, of course, chief amongst them being the reduced wage of a part-time worker, which can seem particularly onerous if you’ve come from a full-time job. In theory, you can top-up that wage by making money from your writing, but given the vagaries of the publishing industry, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It can be difficult, too, to explain to family and friends both why you want to work part-time, and what you’re doing the rest of the time. Not only will they question how much money you’re making, but writing time simply isn’t held sacred by non-writers — of course you can pick up the kids/run an errand for me/attend this social gathering, because you’re not at work, are you?

Still, going part-time is one option I think all writers should consider. The stability of a salary, plus the social interactions with clients and co-workers, is a perfect accompaniment to having more writing hours and the ability to create whatever you want, without the threat of starvation hanging over your head.

Whether you’re a part-time writer through choice or necessity, though, many of the techniques and skills you need are much the same. In the next few posts, I’ll be diving into tricky areas that all part-timers need to master, from setting goals and priorities, to managing your time — master these, and suddenly the part-time life becomes a lot easier!

The Part-Time Writer: Keep the Day-Job

In my opening post, I talked about being a part-time writer, and about all the other writers like me, who have a day-job, or a family, or are self-employed. For many, that life is one they eventually want to leave behind (well, maybe not the family!), but today I want to talk about the alternative. About why you might actually want to be a part-time writer, and why keeping the day-job, no matter how tedious that sounds, might actually be the best thing you’ll ever do.

Let’s get one obvious point out of the way first: you might want to be a part-timer because writing is just a hobby. Well, I say ‘just’, but a hobby or several can be a huge — and hugely rewarding — part of your life. If you aspire to write only for yourself or for friends, to only ever write fan-fic, or to just keep a blog tracking your progress in knitting or pedigree goat breeding, then who cares if the wider world thinks you’re limiting yourself to being an amateur? If you’re happy, enjoy your writing, and don’t have any interest in a wider audience, then I say stick to your guns. Be an amateur, a hobbyist, the part-timer of part-timers, and be proud.

But maybe you’re angling for more? Maybe you want to get paid for your writing, to have thousands of readers, to have your book up there on shelves — or on the Amazon store front, these days. You want to be a professional writer — and yet, sometimes, there are very good reasons to remain a part-timer anyway.

First of all, another obvious point: you might really like your day-job. Maybe you’re a teacher, or a scientist, or a doctor, and nothing in life can ever come close to the fulfilment that brings you. Maybe you mow lawns or stack shelves or unblock drains for a living, and you love that just as much as writing. In all these cases, keeping the day-job is a given, because why give up something you enjoy so much? Even if you hate your job, though, having a world outside your writing can be more beneficial than you might imagine.

There’s the money, for a start, something that needs to be considered even by those who write solely for their ‘art’ and find the idea of financial remuneration somehow sordid. Whether you’re comfortably off or just scraping by, there are very few writers who can dive straight into the deep end of publishing and make a living straight away. Having the safety net of a monthly income, or even just a pot of savings, takes the worry out of writing, particularly if you’re only just starting out. Not needing to make money from your writing means you can write entirely what you want, without worrying about the market, or potential readers, or which publisher to submit to — and trust me, those early days of freedom are an absolute gift. Treasure them.

Even if money isn’t an issue for you, a day-job can be vital. Writing can be a very lonely business, after all, and no number of weekly writing groups or days spent in coffee shops will ever entirely make up for all the hours spent interacting with customers, clients and colleagues. Even if you’re an introvert, as many writers are, entirely locking yourself up in your own head isn’t always healthy — you need to know you’ll actually be happy working alone for an extended period of time before you give up an outside work environment. Stimuli, too, can be harder to come by when you’re writing full-time. Any kind of work, no matter how mundane, exposes you to situations, people and ideas you can use in your writing (moreso if you have a really fascinating job, of course); once you’ve given up your day-job, those are all things you have to make a lot more effort to go out and find.

And what about your health? If you’re healthy now, that might be one issue you’ve never even considered. Swapping one desk job for another won’t make a colossal amount of difference, of course, but if you have an active job now, you need to remember you could well be letting yourself in for a world of back pains, hand complaints, and just the general lack of fitness that results from being able to sit around and eat snacks all day (depending on your personal level of willpower, of course!).

Maybe this post seems overly negative — if it does, I’m not going to apologise. Receiving the reality check of ‘don’t quit the day-job’ is far more valuable before you’ve actually done it, rather than waiting to find out you’ve just dropped yourself into a life you’re not prepared for. On the other hand, though, maybe you’ve considered all these potential hazards and are still shaking your head. Maybe you’re sick and tired of having a day-job and can’t wait to quit it for good — but before you do that, there’s one last option to consider, a perfect answer to all these conundrums: being a part-timer all round. That’s what I’ll be covering in my next post.

The Part-Time Writer: An Introduction

When somebody says, “I’m a writer”, what do you picture? Maybe it’s a millionaire knocking out bestsellers every three months, getting them all optioned by Hollywood; maybe it’s a starving twenty-something living in a Paris garret, writing a single line every day of their Great American Novel. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s an office worker hammering out chapters in their lunch break, a mum working at the kitchen table whilst her kids are asleep, a librarian or a doctor or a teacher, getting up an hour early every morning to type a few bleary paragraphs before work.

The truth of the matter is that very few writers, professional or amateur, write fiction full-time. Many have day-jobs they dream of leaving. Others have a job they love, and writing is just a hobby. Still others write both for work — ad copy or magazine articles or blog posts — and as a passion in the evenings. For every job you can think of, there’s probably a writer out there doing it, whilst spending their free time (and maybe some of their work time) thinking up plots and characters, scribbling notes, and wishing they were at their keyboard. The one and only thing they all have in common, whether they keep their day-job voluntarily or out of necessity? They write.

I’m just one of these writers. My ‘day-job’ (or maybe that should be ‘first job’, as it’s not one with regular hours) is running a B&B with my partner. Some days, particularly during the summer, writing seems like a distant dream; others, I have nothing to do but write. I’ve asked myself time and again whether, should my writing career ever take off, I’d give up my day-job entirely, but it turns out that’s not an easy question to answer — until it actually happens, anyway.

So, for now, I’ll continue to write in my spare time, be that full days or snatched half hours. I will, like the majority of other scribblers out there, be a part-time writer — and that’s what this new series of blog posts will be about. There’ll be tips and tricks, things I’ve discovered for myself or picked up elsewhere. There’ll be techniques for writing more, writing faster, and making better use of your time. There will also be a few posts about why we do what we do: about motivation and passion, about the pleasure (or not) of writing, and about what makes this a life so many of us just can’t give up.

Because, for now at least, I’ll continue to be a part-time writer — and if you are, too, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.